This is the kind of issue that really gets blood boiling (among developers and homeowners). How about you? Take a minute to let us know what you think.
You’ll also find many more comments attached to the petition.
I’m shocked and very angry after looking over your website. I live a couple blocks away from the atrocious side yard home in my neighborhood (Fremont), but I thought it was one of a kind. I had no idea these things are in the back and side yards of homes all over the city. You can count on me to sign the petition, lobby the city and more. Developers are obviously taking advantage of this loophole … and law abiding homeowners are paying the price. I’m furious.
I’ve tried to have an open mind to the backyard house in my neighborhood (in the backyard of 5501 Kensington Place North, Wallingford), but I’ve grown to detest everything about it. I figure having a three-story, ultra-modern home looming over my backyard has cost me at least $70K in lost property value, not to mention a complete write-off on any privacy I used to have in the backyard. The only way I can stand to be around it is to never look up at it. I feel for others in the same position, which is why I’m trying to put a stop to the construction of anymore of these backyard behemoths. Join me.
As a vocal opponent of the project at 5501 Kensington whose home is not directly affected by the three-story tower, I have been asked on occasion why I care. Perhaps the best answer is that in addition to being offensive to my traditional senses, it also offends my sense of fair play. The developers of these projects have been described as “savvy”. I would add “unscrupulous” and “deceitful” to the descriptions of some. They take advantage of an obscure loophole in the zoning laws knowing full well that each project will have a profoundly negative impact on the neighbors involved. Quite often, they lie about their intentions until it is too late to halt construction. You would think that these projects would be first in line for master use permit signs. The fact that signs aren’t required at all is unconscionable. I applaud my neighbors for fighting the good fight, and Richard Conlin for responding to our repeated pleas with legislation intended to stop this practice.
We have treasured the serenity of our backyard until the construction of a looming tower in our neighbor’s backyard began to permanently damage our community. Many neighbors will pay the price of lost light and privacy, decreased home values and added cost to shield our homes from the negative effects of this project. I am grateful to Councilman Richard Conlin for his active approach in amending city zoning laws, so these types or developments will no longer be possible.
The first I learned about yet a skinny house being built adjacent to our backyard was when I heard the bulldozer excavating the neighbor’s side yard of lovely rhododendrons and rose bushes and scooping out mounds of earth as the houses on all sides looked like they would cave into the hole left. There had been no notice of the impending excavation and construction of a skinny house on this Laurelhurst side yard. In fact, the house on the lot now has a fence two feet away from it and is frighteningly close to our back fence. After getting the plans, we see that we will have a three-story high structure with inset decks staring into our backyard. Not only does it depreciate the value of our home and bring more noise and detract from the neighborhood, but also it offends every sense of fairness to those it impacts and only adds to the distrust of those who abuse and take advantage of loopholes. The Soleil website (Dan Duffus) states: “Mindful of the impacts of residential construction, Soleil is dedicated to energy and resource-efficient practices and is proud to be Built Green™ certified” and “Passionate about both the benefits of environmentally sensitive practices as well as retaining the character of a property, Dan is proud of Soleil’s commitment to deliver affordable, high-quality, Built Green™ homes in keeping with the history, flavor and feel of the neighboring community” (http://www.soleildevelopment.com/about.html). Clearly in this Laurelhurst neighborhood, there has been no mindfulness of the impact and no keeping with the history, flavor and feel of the neighboring community.” In fact, it is contrary to the entire character of this community and sets a unconscionable precedent for side yards and the tactics of developers who prey on neighborhoods. The zoning laws must be amended to prevent these skinny house constructions in neighborhoods where they do not stay in character with the neighborhood. Thank you to Councilman Richard Conlin and all those who are working to prevent money-greedy developers who do not care one bit if they destroy neighborhoods.
It sounds like the availability of this kind of “development” boils down to out-of-print, copyrighted maps and pencil lines on sewer cards? If I have it right, that’s astounding. I expect that this list of documents that might be used to assert a plat map might not be limited to current “official” plat maps, Kroll maps, and side sewer cards? I wonder where it might end? Personal Letters found in buried time capsules?
Clearly not a level playing field.
I just spent 45 minutes trying to find any documents regarding parcel 3856905661 and (thinking that I’ve done this kind of thing a few times before and it wouldn’t be that hard) came up with nothing but the deeds! What an incredibly frustrating search tool and website the Recorder/Assessor has!
If anyone knows some more expeditious method for finding out if I’m at risk of my neighbor’s property turning into something I’d *never* have moved next to, I’m all ears. I mean, how can I feel “safe” if I can’t even know where all to look to see if I am?
I have to wonder about Conlin’s thinking after reading this article in the times.
My neighbors and I successfully fought off a Duffus development project in the Mount Baker neighborhood. The critical fact in our case was that when our area was originally platted, the developer inserted a covenant in each original deed requiring that nothing but one house be built on any one lot identified in the deed. The lot between our house and our neighbors has always been vacant. It had been divided in the 1920s, with one half conveyed to the prior owners of our house and the other half going to our neighbor to the north. Duffus bought the neighboring house and proposed to build a towering skinny house on the half lot (25 x 100′). We sued, arguing that “one house on one lot” means no houses on half lots. This covenant has been litigated periodically over the years and has always been enforced. We resolved the dispute by agreeing to buy the half lot from Duffus at a price representing a substantial discount to the lot’s value if it were a building site. Five of our neighbors chipped in to fund the purchase. In the deed conveying the property from Duffus to us, we inserted a covenant against building on the lot which runs in favor of each of the houses that contributed to the purchase. That means that any subsequent owner of our house would not be able to build on the lot unless they got all 5 families to agree. We think in reality that that means no one will ever build on the lot. We use it as a sort of private pea patch garden for the families that funded the purchase.
The lesson is that anyone facing a similar challenge should carefully scour the historic record to uncover any covenants that might be relevant. They could appear in deeds somewhere in the chain of title, or they could be in the plat map that was filed with the city. Enforcing historical covenants is not a slam dunk, particularly if they have been ignored over the years. It worked for us, though.
In my view, the root of the problem is that Andy McKim and Bill Mills at DPD interpret “established as a separate building site prior to 1957” as if it read “established as a legal lot prior to 1957.” They ignore the words, “as a separate building site,” which violates a fundamental rule of statutory interpretation. They should require evidence that someone planned to build on a lot prior to 1957. Of course, there is no chance that anyone meant to build on narrow strips of land in the 1950s, 30 or 40 years before skinny houses began to pop up in Seattle. It might be easier and more politically palatable for the council or city attorney to direct the DPD staff to interpret the existing law correctly, rather than to change the law.
Best of luck to all those facing development in their neighborhoods on substandard lots. I know how disruptive it is to your lives. I don’t think I had a good night’s sleep from the day Duffus started building his fence until the day we closed on the purchase of the lot.
While I understand your position (read = NIMBYism), I don’t understand why people are vilanizing Mr. Duffus when he is acting within the Seattle Land Use Code. I looked it up and it is very clearly written in 23.44.010 of the Seattle Municipal Code. This is NOT a loophole. This is something that has been done for years. Hate it or not, these are the rules and developers (you roast Mr. Duffus but there are dozens in Seattle doing the exact same thing) are building based on them! To allege that there is something else at work here is a gross assumption – not a fact. Recognizing that a property has a historical lot and then developing on it should not demonize any developer. If you have an issue with it then teach Seattle to develop their city by design and not by code.
And I have to point out that a neighbor’s backyard is not your backyard.
And one more point. What happens to all of these people within the city that realize they have a historical lot and have been banking on this as a small nest egg for them and their family? How are you going to compensate them for that? No need to answer the question because we already know the answer: It isn’t about the actual homeowner. It is all about you.
As I argued in my post above, I believe that the code section that you cite was intended to permit building on lots that were established AS BUILDING SITES prior to the middle of 1957. That’s what the code says. It is rediculous to think that a 25 x 100′ strip of land (to use the example that our neighborhood faced–many other examples are worse) was ever intended by anyone to be a building site. Side yard, back yard, garden, yes. Building site? Certainly not. People didn’t build skinny houses in 1957.
As to the nest egg point, Duffus and others are in the business of finding “hidden land value.” The key is “hidden,” because it means that they buy property for much less than their value as building lots. In the case of our neighbors, they were shocked when they discovered Duffus (who bought through a straw man in order to conceal his identity as a developer) planned to subdivide their lot and build a skinny house in the side yard. I don’t doubt that in the mid 1950s, there were people with sub-5000 sq ft lots who were counting on building on the lots. That was the reason for the adoption of 23.44.010 B 4. Now, 55 years later, very few if any of those sites are left. The land use code is being interpreted in a way that makes no sense, because no one could possibly argue that the lots that Duffus and others are buying were ever established as building sites prior to 1957.
For the record, I have no beef with Dan Duffus. I found him to be a pleasant, reasonable guy to work with. I didn’t want him to build a massive skinny house 5′ from my fence, and I believed that his plans to do so were in conflict with his obligations under the covenant governing the lot that he bought. We struck a reasonable deal and we paid him a fair price for the lot. I happen to think that the city is wrong in its interpretation of 23.44.010, but I don’t fault Dan Duffus for taking advantage of the City’s mistake. It’s not personal.
I do fault Dan Duffus. From The Weekly article, “But he’s not exactly counting on a warm welcome. In fact, he’s not sure he can stomach living there himself. He knows that neighbors think he’s lying about his plans, believing that he’s just trying to make money off the project.”
This is disingenious, is he smoking crack? He’s being exploitative, devaluing the neighbor’s property, buying lots on the cheap, starting these homes stealthily so no one can stop him, and tearing out all the living trees and bushes that provide privacy. No one would want to live in a neighborhood that existed completely of these homes. So why does he? Because he is thinking only of his bottom line. This is selfishness and greed. I would be horrified if one of these went up next to me. He’s a community destroyer. Go back to California.
I will sign the petition and notify everyone on my mailing list.
WC – Is your argument based on whether or not the city in 1957 THOUGHT a 2,500 square foot lot was a BUILDABLE lot? What you believe people thought over 50 years ago is not a strong position. What was the position when these were originally created (in most cases) over 100 years ago. I would take a guess (because I don’t know) that one could build one home per plotted lot. If I am wrong here please correct me. Regardless, the Seattle Land Use Code makes it very clear of what is and is not a buildable lot.
Your “hidden value” argument makes the assumption that everybody who sells or buys their property is unaware of their historical lot. That just is not true. Some? Maybe. Everybody? Definitely not. Are there homeowners who would lose out if the code were to change? Absolutely.
If this wasn’t personal than the attack would be on the code itself.
The code says “established as a building lot.” It said that in the late 1950s, so we need to consider what the drafters meant by “building lot” back then. It may not make sense to you, but that’s what courts do–they try to figure out what was meant by the words of the statute in question. The law doesn’t say “established as a tax parcel” or “established as a legal lot,” it says “established as a BUILDING lot.” So, it is highly relevant whether a 25′ wide strip of land would have been understood to be a potential building site back in the 1950s. DPD is ignoring those words when it interprets the law, and that’s a pretty basic error in statutory construction. You’re right that the current land use code has clear rules about what’s buildable, including setback requirements. That says nothing whatsoever about who is entitled to the exception from the minimum lot size in 23.44.010. To figure that out, you have to know what is meant by “buildable lot.” That very question is being litigated now, so with luck we’ll have a definitive answer in the next year or so.
You may be right that a few people know about the possibility that they are selling a buildable lot, but the Weekly article makes it clear that that’s not the business model that Dan Duffus and others use. They rely on real estate agents who comb through the plat maps and other records to identify potential building sites. Then they do whatever they can,including using straw man buyers, to conceal the buyer’s identity from the seller. Otherwise the seller might not sell, or might increase his price.
As for potential value lost by people who might no longer be able to develop their odd strips of land, I have no problem with that. We all have to live by the rules. My property would be more valuable if I could build a factory on it, but that use isn’t allowed in a SF5000 zoned area, so I’m out of luck. My lot would be more valuable if I could tear down my house and build 5 skinny houses, or an appartment building, but again, those uses are not allowed. A fair reading of the Seattle Municipal Code shows that it is not permitted to build on a skinny strip of land, so anyone who owns such a strip is no more deprived of value than I am because I can’t build a factory.
As I thought I made clear, my complaint is with the way the city is interpreting the code, not with Dan Duffus or the code itself. In my case, I also thought Dan was violating a covenant contained in the original deed to his lot, but that’s unique to my case.
I am a very recent victim of just this kind of thing; I owned my home for 21 years in the lovely neighborhood of Mt Baker. I sold my home in March of 2011. Fifteen months later my beautiful garden was bulldozed to make way for a modern house on the upper half of my lot — which turned out to be two lots, according to the City. (Never mind my history of paying property taxes for 21 years based on the same square footage classified as one parcel.) Developers have the time and money to dig back into historical records, submit their research to the City, receive a ruling. All beneath the homeowner’s radar. Then they make an offer, sometimes through a straw man if their previous offers have been rejected. Once they own the property, the bulldozers move in. It is completely outrageous to me that the City of Seattle can issue an opinion about your property, changing its legal definition, with absolutely no obligation to inform you. This inequity has to be among the first to be addressed by a change in the law: if the City decides your property is something other than the property described in your tax bill, THEY MUST INFORM YOU! That right there would save a lot of homeowner misery and financial loss, and take away the incentive for developers to spend their time finding “hidden land value,” as Dan Duffus boasts he does.
If you’re lucky enough to have a Duffus property built near you, this is what you can expect.
Lots of illegal aliens trashing the area, throwing food wrppers on to the street and adjacent properties. Their cars parked in front and obscuring your driveway entrance. Lots of nails and
wood chips thrown onto your property- complain (nicely even) and expect more of the same
on purpose plus harassment in the early hours threatening you, your wife and family as you
make your way to work- of course if you do not understand some spanish you will wonder what
they are saying.
Call the cops in reference to the above and YOU are the villain for bothering them (the cops).
Sue them, well sure, but that means spending much time accumulating evidence and spending
a couple grand on a lawyer that may or may not get results.
Most people in Seattle are so sickingly passive- do not expect any help from neighbors even if
they have it worse or have more to lose from a hastily and very cheaply “giant refrigerator box”
being built by unprofessional Mexican illegals near them.
Here is more on Duufus—- and I am tired of hearing how he is keeping construction crews
employed in bad times for the industry- he is keeping Mexican illegals employed and they send
the majority of their money back to Mexico. A Duffus property is good for Mexico, bad for Seattle.
Sign this petition before you get surprised by a Duffus special next to you and the harassing illegals that go with it.
And of course the Department of Planning turns a blind eye- lots of permit payoffs and
contracting freebies to be had.
Here is an email I just sent to DPD and the city council members on the Planning and Land Use Committee.
I am writing as a counterpoint to the “One Home Per Lot” folks. I am a supporter of increased urban density. In fact, I was one of the first in line to build a backyard cottage when the zoning changed. I was a panel member on a discussion held by council member Sally Clark to discuss the 1 year results after the backyard cottage zoning changes.
One of the things that I think has made the backyard cottages so successful is the strict requirements that were carefully crafted to try to preserve the single-family home feel of the neighborhoods. The most difficult part of our design process was trying to get what we wanted from the cottage and stay within the restrictions of the building code. However in the end we were able to find that balance and it seems to have been well-received within the neighborhood.
I would like to encourage you to take a look at the building codes as it relates to these historical tax parcels and see if similar requirements could be applied, e.g. total lot coverage, setbacks, building height, etc. I do not think we necessarily need to abandon this practice of subdividing lots as I am a proponent of increased urban density. However we do need to make sure we are keeping a balance with the existing homes.
One complaint that I do not agree with is the bemoaning of these new developments being “so modern in the middle of historic old homes.” I have previously lived in a home owner’s association and I would much rather take a diverse, unique jumble of home styles than an HOA any day.
Hey, all you complaining people! This higher density encouraged by the city and county is the consequence of your vote. Remember when they were taking people’s land through great regulations? We rural landowners had an Initiatie 933 and you voted against us. You wanted our land to be downzoned from 3/4 acre per house to 10 and 20 acres per house. The purpose of government was to force density into the urban areas — that is you. That has been happening for years, but now it is finally affecting your backyard. Vote the tree-hugging liberals out or you will see much more of this.
I like little houses built in unused areas. So cute! It’s a great idea think! Modern cities, need to be innovative.
I think this is a design issue. Infill development is a benefit to cities as well as to rural areas, taking sprawl pressures off suburban & rural lands.
My old neighborhood, 1615 S. King St., was a multifamily lot with two dwellings and a garage. It was an appropriate spot for two more dwellings, and these were built there, but totally out of scale to the neighborhood. Had these two other homes been built to local scale and with respect for the privacy, sight lines, and solar exposure of the existing homes, they would have been a great infill build. An appropriate design would have been an amenity, not an eyesore.
The builder clearly wanted to maximize his profits, and that is indeed how it works given that housing is in the commodities market. Seems to me that DPD needs more latitude to approve projects with some scale & context, rather than just an ‘is it legal’ approach. Design sensibility isn’t the strong suit of most developers, in my experience.
A bit of feedback on this site: I do think the use of the word “wedged” in every photo description of the new constriction is a loaded word. Built might be a more neutral term, though it’s obvious that neutrality is not what the website owner feels.
Yeah, I agree that the constant use of the word “wedged” is overly loaded. I live in the Phinney Ridge neighborhood. I own a one-story bungalow built almost 100 years ago on a 100′ x 30′ lot. The whole block was platted into these 3,000 square foot lots more than a century ago. Most of the houses on the block were built to a similar size on one of these small lots.
For whatever reason, no house was ever built on the lot immediately adjacent to my home. My neighbor owns that lot. It’s a nicely landscaped green space that sits between my small one-story bungalow and hers. If she (or the next owners) decided to build a home on that vacant lot, would you consider that home to be “wedged into the side yard” like so many of the homes you highlight in your slideshow?
Honestly, many of these houses in there look little different than a modern home would look if it were built next to my own. The thing is…several of the original one-story bungalows on my block have been expanded upward and/or backward to create homes that are just as dense and bulky-looking as those in the slideshow. Maybe they don’t have the same “modern” design aesthetic as some of the newer homes you object to, but the size and scale is the same.
I might not appreciate seeing a new house 10 feet outside my kitchen window, but this is not ultimately my decision to make. My neighbor’s land is her own. She has apparently always had the right to build a home on the other half of her property, and I don’t see any reason why a bunch of “concerned neighbors” should have the ability to strip her of that right without just compensation.
It seems this could be resolved by not allowing the exemption to be transferred from the original 1957 property owner. Also, require the same setbacks, side yards, front and back yards as all other properties. If a variance is desired, the property owner can pursue one via the normal public process rather having neighbors finding out about it when the bulldozers show up. The issues that make this so egregious appear to be the special treatment, the deception, and the denial of input by affected property owners.
You can bet that Mr. Duffus would not wish to live in a house next door to one of his projects with it looming over his yard and blocking out the sun… but I guess that is an issue of personal morality. Golden rule and all that…
I don’t understand your concern here. Most of these homes look great, and I’d love to live in one.
We live in a city. Cities change. It would be a huge mistake to cast our neighborhoods in amber. It looks like these aren’t wholesale neighborhood changes, just a home here and there. And they aren’t even tearing many homes down, they’re fitting between other homes. Perfect.
Why do you care so much what someone else does with their own property?
Mr. Duffus actually does live in a house that was one of his projects and side by side with another of one of his projects. Demonizing him is just childish although I guess if your definition of what’s right and what’s wrong in the world is defined by your own narrow self interest, than Dan may be your devil.
I am so happy that there is one person on the city council that believes that current homeowners in already dense neighborhoods have a say in what happens in their community. Who should decide what happens in our neighborhoods? Developers – or should I say developer- who “take” equity from the neighbors of their projects by stealing light and privacy from existing houses – then take their profit and move on? They are the only people who benefit from these projects.
What’s kind of unbelievable is that these new houses look amazing and all the priggish commenters on this forum can say is how they’re out of character with the neighborhood.
So I suppose they’d rather have some faux historical knock-off as opposed to something that actually looks like it’s from the century in which we live? These developers actually have decent taste. Which is rare.
I’m not sure whether the originators of this forum are terminally nostalgic or the aesthetically challenged or both. Because what’s striking to me is that, in most cases, the AFTER photo looks far better than the BEFORE photo. Seriously, many of the detractors should consider moving to New England where they could live in a perpetual theme park devoted to the past.
This is life in a dynamic, ever-changing city. Get used to it. To borrow a term, FORWARD.
There is no reason in the world that these backyard homes should be allowed. They exist for one reason and one reason only: To make money for developers who have the insider’s knowledge to skirt rules and throw up a beast of a house before anyone knows what hit them, usurping daylight and privacy and views. This is their job and they do it well. Our family had a similar experience and these builders are bullies of the worst kind, using a position of power to devastate their powerless neighbors. Level the playing field and give neighborhoods a fighting chance to retain the quality of life that we bought when we bought into that community. CLOSE THE LOOPHOLE.
I live directly across from this small proposed building site. The size of the planned construction will not blend with the area and also will cause more parking issue, at this time on a Sunday you could be lucky to find one within a block of your house.
This lot had the ability for use for building 50 years ago, but current owners were not made aware. There is software programs that will soon be available so developers can find these hidden lots and squeeze a big monster house on the lot and make lots of money. These houses clearly lower the value and privacy of local neighbors. This code should be changed .
I have been a homeowner and taxpayer in Seattle for the past 35 years. While I sympathize with the community that abhors homes that are out of character with the neighborhood, Seattle has long had legislation that prohibits community interference with property owner’s rights. In addition there are neighborhoods, particularly around Green Lake and Maple Leaf, where almost all of the houses are on smaller lots than zoning specification or the skinny lots.
I think that NIBMY’s should consider the environmental problems of prohibiting densification of in-city neighborhoods. For every new lot in the City, there is thousands of gallons of gas saved in lowering commuter traffic. Being vocal or angry doesn’t make your position right.
I’m offended by the tone of John M’s comments. Why call people “priggish” because they care about the character and value of their neighborhood? The fact is, neighborhoods do have an architectural style and the new skinny homes do not fit in to that style. If a neighbor remodeled their older home in such a way as to out of scale with the rest of the homes here, that would be a problem as well. Zoning laws were created to avoid such architectural chaos. And it’s not just skinny modern homes that are being placed in older neighborhoods. A duplex is slated to go in right next to door to my home on a streets of single-family houses all built in the late 1930’s. The lot will be split into two pieces, about 2500 square feet each. I stand to lose all my southern exposure as well as my privacy as that structure will be right outside my windows. Naturally, those losses will affect my property values. My home is in large part my retirement. These are not small matters to scoff at. People’s futures are at stake. Clearly it’s greed, not taste or some kind of thoughtful committment to the future that is driving this kind of development. All change is not necessarily good, Mr. John M. Issues are more complex than simply suggesting that people go live in a theme park. Essentially you are making that suggestion to a lot of older people who are going to be very hurt by these changes. To you I suggest, grow up and deepen your understanding, young man.
Councilmember Richard Conlin and
Members of the Seattle Council
600 Fourth Avenue, 2nd Floor
P.O. Box 34025
Seattle, Washington 98124-4025
RE: Council Bill 117572—Closing Loopholes to Prevent Substandard Development in Single-Family Neighborhoods
Dear Councilmember Conlin and Members of the Seattle City Council:
The Laurelhurst Community Club Board of Trustees (LCC) urges you to adopt Council Bill 117572 which would impose interim development regulations to prohibit incompatible and substandard development on certain lots in single family neighborhoods. We are grateful that the Council is addressing this measure in an expeditious manner in light of the actions of certain developers to take advantage of loopholes in the Code that allow building of new homes in backyards and side yards of existing homes. While most developers are responsible, some have chosen to exploit a loophole in the Code to allow very large and out-of-scale homes on substandard sized lots that fail to meet minimum size regulations. This loophole should be closed immediately.
Of particular concern is the lack of notice provided to surrounding homes when this substandard and out-of-scale development is in the works. There is no administrative appeal and the only alternative, if neighbors happen to understand the process and the time deadlines, is to pursue an appeal under the Land Use Petition Act. This is an expensive process and unlikely to happen because of the loophole in the Code that would give developers an upperhand in any court action.
The use of historic tax records as a basis for qualifying for lot area exceptions eliminates appropriate development standards. It results in significantly less than minimum lot sizes and houses that are out of scale and incompatible with existing homes. This is exactly what has happened in Laurelhurst at 4810 NE 40th Street. This trend will continue, as it has throughout the city, without passage of Council Bill 117572.
This will not diminish the supply of affordable houses as developers claim. The emergency ordinance does not prevent all further development in these small lots, only sets up new criteria to preserve and protect the character of our cherished neighborhoods.
The Laurelhurst Community Club urges you to vote YES on this measure.
Cicy Council passed an ordinace which allows home owners to put a detached dwelling unit on their properties as mother in-law like apartments…this type of infil is more desirable because the property is not subdivided and kept as one taxable parcel, whereas subdived property does merit new tax revenue for city and credits for developers’ trading development rights (TDR) from developing in suburban and rural counties — that’s the trade off and encouraging infill in cities where it is expected MORE people are expeted to live, work and play…There is good development and bad development in urban core’s, this type of infill is not good for neighborhhods like Laurelhurst, Montlake, Ravenna in that once developer’s get an upper hand in single residental SF5000 and undersized property zones they apt to and apparently are [?] influencing city councils to changing zoning to reflect what we’re already seeing in Capitol Hill, Univerity District and Roosevelt. Seemingly once zoning changes are granted there’s little chance of reversing the trend, and its up to us, residental neighbors, historical districts and neighborhood councils to put the brakes quick and close that back door developer’s such as Dan Dufus are attmepting to install. Why not work with neighborhoods instead of sneaking in the back door and making themselves an enemy instead of being a good neighbor in the first place??? Also its holding Seattle City Council responsible for NOT catering to the Master Builder’s Association who also may be influencing member’s of our city council to encourage more of these backdoor infill projects for developer’s to take on more TDR credits.
Thank yui Jeanne Hale and other’s. Forgive my misspelling (in haste), Mr. Duffus and other’s. I too know many honest builder’s Mr. Duffus and you unintentionally put your industry to shame in the manner with which you conduct your business and treat neighborhood’s…the code need’s to be amended by Seattle City Council to reflect ‘modern-up to date’ building regulations and requirments.
“…those losses will affect my property values. My home is in large part my retirement. These are not small matters to scoff at. People’s futures are at stake.” And Deborah, most of the people in the city know they have historical lots and consider it part of their retirment. With the passage of this bill they lose out. Their futures are at stake. See both sides. It isn’t the neighbors versus the developer. Or maybe it is, because the property owners who do have the historical lots have NO idea what people are trying to take away from them. Does that seem right to you?
Dan and Andy Duffus are using a loop hole to make money for themselves at home owners expenses. A skinny yellow house has just recently been finished on Sand Point Way at about 120th. The houses on either side are directly impacted with no side yards and loss of light. The houses on both sides have just had their property values plummet down. The Duffus brothers and other contractors comments about affordable housing are not true. There are plenty of town houses already which people can purchase. The big houses on skinny lots destroys neighborhoods. Jeanie Hale has very well presented the case for the city council to ban skinny or big houses on skinny lots. A half block from our house a huge house was build on a lot which only had space for a single garage which was torn down.
Surely, I can’t be the only who thinks that many of these sleek, modern homes have actually improved the neighborhoods they were built in. I grew up in Ballard- I still live in my childhood home built in 1962- and the neighbor’s house is just seven feet from my kitchen window. That’s the way it’s always been. We live in a living, breathing city, folks. Kudos to the developers who have taken this innovative approach to keeping housing affordable in our rapidly densifying city.
I have looked through the pdf with the photos provided on the site and glanced through the comments on this site. There are a few things I notice is that there seems to be bias against “modern” architecture and I think the pdf is a little misleading. I agree with a previous poster that the phrase “wedged into” and sideyard are overused.
I actually walk by the houses on Linden Ave. (42 in the pdf) everyday when I drop off and pick up my children at school. Those homes on Linden Ave. are actually on lots that are zoned multifamily, in fact most of that block is zoned multifamily. We were curious on what was going on there as we saw construction happening and we looked up the zoning. The backyard homes are on an alley across from commercially zoned properties that abut Aurora Ave. Fair enough. Interestingly, whoever the builders were tried to make them look more traditional by adding faux craftsman/bungalow detailing though it looks cheaply done and superfluous IMHO. When those houses went up for sale they all sold quickly so there must have been a demand for them. I know from walking by that there are families with children that live in the front original houses and they seem very happy to be there despite the density and the possible perceived lack of privacy. I don’t know for sure, but the big skinny houses in the back haven’t seemed to make property values plummet and have destroyed the community yet. If anything, it spurred on the renovation of a few dilapidated rental houses on that block.
As for the project at Kensington place (3 in the pdf) which brought me here from the wallyhood blog, looking at the photos, it looks like there is a 2 story garage detached accessory building across the alley already. Wouldn’t somebody be able to in the second story their be able to see across the alley into the neighbor’s yard already? While I empathize with the complainant neighbors loss of privacy, to advocate only house per lot as this site is a proponent for is not an answer to problem and neither does dictating what style of house “should be” build community.
Also, when I look look at the other examples provided such as (26 in the pdf) on N. 77th in the Greenwood neighborhood, it looks like it was built on a standard lot with same setbacks as required by zoning. In fact, the red house to the left of the original looks just as close and the new house. Some parts of Queen Anne and Phinney Ridge that I have been to have older homes that are what seems to me really tight together. Was this example picked out because it was modern architecturally? I think it looks like a well built home and detailed well for what it is. While I don’t understand the big white house on Queen Anne (27 in the pdf) and how it turns its back in a sense towards the neighbors, it looks like it was built on a standard lot. And no don’t call me a modernista, I live in a 1912 farmhouse on a standard Seattle SF lot, thank you very much. Yes I can see me neighbors kitchen window and dining room, they can probably see me in my backyard if they sit on their back porch, but they have been good neighbors for 16 years, besides landscaping, screens and blinds do have a purpose. I take that as part of living in a city with different people, different tastes and points of view and believe it or not density.
It seems to me that the purpose of this site and the pdf is to preserve a certain aesthetic and keep the status quo.
While I don’t care for the architecture of these new homes, I do have to say, this site is rife with NIMBY and elitism. Only two of the almost 50 subjects in the pdf reside in a lower income neighborhood. One in Judkins Park that is already being gentrified with many town-homes and small lots (less than 3000sf). The other is lower income home is 5 blocks from Genesee Park. All the other homes fall into three categories. They are in well to-do neighborhoods; Mt. Baker, Queen Anne, Ballard, Upper Fremont, Wallingford/Greenlake, Laurelhurst/Sandpoint, Phinywood. They are within three blocks of major green spaces or have solid views. Or they are already in higher density blocks, with around 30-40% or more substandard lots or town houses in nearby blocks.
A good number of the listed new properties look to be on lots of at least 4000sf and the new house just uses most of the space on the lot. This fill is no different than many new developments of McMansions in Bellevue and Auburn. Some of the “modest home”s are not too modest either, such as 1527 Sunset Ave SW, a 2600sf, $870K home above Alki west.
As far as not knowing that you bought two “building lot”s when you bought your house is really your own fault. As much as a house purchase is, you should really look better into what your buying. My house sits on two lots that were platted that way in 1904, each 2550sf, so yes some day I could split it and build two houses. Or like many properties just blocks away from me, maybe I could place a pair of town homes here. But I think many people are missing the idea that “established as a building lot” does not have to mean a lot that someone built or tried to build on, but a lot that could have a building on it.
But I too would not care for a three story tall block house next door, will it destroy me, not really, and in all reality it will improve my home’s value, by showing that my area of the city is well liked and nice to live. And on a side note, there are many houses in Capital Hill, First Hill, and the CD, that are on sub 3000sf lots, and only 20ft wide, all dating to the 1900’s thru 1920’s. To think that everyone in a city must be on 5000sf or more and can’t see their neighbors is bonk, go move to Iowa.
I purchased a home in the historic Maple Leaf neighborhood last fall and am dismayed to see tall skinny houses popping up in backyards all over the neighborhood. These houses are totally out of step with the character of these fantastic and highly desirable historic neighborhoods. If more and more of these homes are allowed to go up on smaller-than-allowed lots, Seattle’s old neighborhoods will be irreversibly damaged and become less desirable and property values will drop. Further, these tall skinny homes homes are totally oversized for the lot – destroying privacy and blocking sunlight for neighbors on all sides. People purchased homes in residential neighborhoods because they wanted more space and privacy and expected that new construction would be in keeping with the zoning in the neighborhood. These backyard homes obviously do not align with the intention of the zoning in the area. These homes, which are able to be built because of a loophole in the law, are causing surrounding property values to drop and are not what any homebuyer should be confronted with after buying a home in a residential neighborhood.
what a bunch of complainers! after seeing the photos, i’m actually more in favor of these small, modern, and affordable houses. there’s nothing wrong with progressive modernization – neighborhoods never stay the same.
As one of the people in favor of closing this loophole I want to make one thing abundantly clear: this is not about modern versus traditional homes. Rather homes that are OUT OF SIZE/SCALE for the property they are being built upon. Further, look at the facts, the majority of the time when one of these properties is purchased the seller of the property has NO IDEA that they own a property that at one time was considered more than one tax parcel so they do not get the value$$ out of their property when they sell it. The “taking away of nest eggs from seniors” argument is a farce. The only people profiting from this practice are the developers who often conceal their identity when purchasing properties by using straw man buyers – hardly the behavior of folks who are on the side of elderly home owners. All we are asking for is a level playing field and that developers be required to follow the same zoning rules that all of us individual homeowners have followed when working on our own homes and property. And that these codes/rules are TRANSPARENT to all.
September 13, 2012
RE: Council Bill 117572—Development on Undersized Lots in Single-Family Neighborhoods
On behalf of our neighborhood, the Laurelhurst Community Club Board of Trustees (LCC) appreciates your unanimous adoption of Council Bill 117572 imposing interim development regulations on incompatible development on certain lots in single family neighborhoods. We all cherish our neighborhoods throughout the City. The out-of-scale development pursued by developers taking advantage of “loopholes” in the Code has threatened the character of our communities and the property rights of adjacent and nearby property owners. As you move forward in developing permanent legislation to address the many issues, we offer the following comments.
First, we commend the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) on its August 31, 2012 report in providing historical background about the current Code provision and the problems that have arisen, as well as outlining the many concerns from impacted neighbors and neighborhoods. We are, however, concerned that permits for development on undersized lots in some cases have been granted apparently without regard to a study of case law and definitely without notice to neighbors about the projects. Thanks to your efforts, we now have a moratorium with interim standards on development on these lots and an opportunity to develop regulations that will work for our neighborhoods and our City.
Notice and an opportunity to comment: Impacted neighbors should have notice of proposed development on these undersized lots and an opportunity to appeal to the Hearing Examiner. This could be accomplished by requiring a conditional use permit. As an alternative, the design review process could be expanded to cover these types of developments in single-family neighborhoods. In its report, DPD pointed out that lack of notice has triggered strong and persistent complaints from neighbors. DPD goes on to point out that neighbors often become aware that a lot is to be separately developed only when construction begins and no administrative appeal is available. This should be changed in developing permanent legislation.
Involvement of impacted communities: We understand that your intention is to draft legislation between now and December. Should you establish an advisory committee to assist you in this effort, we strongly encourage you to include individuals who have been directly affected by the flurry of development on these undersized lots or representatives from their community councils. This perspective will be invaluable in developing a proposal that addresses the concerns of neighbors and allows appropriate infill development. So often in recent years, the sense is that complex land use measures are developed behind closed doors with only input from developers. An open and transparent process is extremely important on an issue that affects so many people in major ways.
Development standards: It is extremely important that development on these undersized lots fit in proportion and size with the surrounding homes. There should be appropriate setbacks. New development on these undersized lots should not intrude into the privacy of adjacent and nearby homes. Adjacent homes should not lose the treasured opportunity to have gardens and grow vegetables due to towering infill development that was never anticipated in the first place. Nearby neighbors should not have to lose value in homes they’ve likely owned and worked on for decades due to the loophole in the Code—an investment they have counted on for their futures.
The initial proposal would have limited the height and square footage to that allowed for detached accessory dwelling units, an 800 square foot limit. As amended, the current interim proposal allows two story units with the square footage dictated by the Code. During this process leading up to passage of the interim measure, the provisions relating to square footage were eliminated, apparently at the insistence of developers according to our take on the council meetings. While one councilmember stated that the two-story limit and the 35% limit on lot coverage would end up limiting square footage, we are not convinced. But, there are exceptions for smaller lots and according to our calculations, and we are not experts on the Land Use Code, it appears that at 2500 square foot lot could result in a dwelling of 1375 square feet. This could be out of scale with surrounding properties.
As you move forward, we urge you to consider the comments of the Laurelhurst Community Club, our neighbors and neighbors throughout the City.
Jeannie Hale, President Liz Ogden, Land Use Committee
I think this is a really smart use of limited land in a growing city. I really don’t see what the issue is. Sure, some look better than others and some are more respectful to neighbors, but you can see that on any street in Seattle.
All of these examples were, presumably built to code and as I understand it, what you are calling a loophole is actually specifically addressed in the SMC to allow this type of construction. Therefore, not a hole in the code that people are taking advantage of.
I am also a bit surprised that while reviewing your PDF, you tip your hand a bit with especially harsh and subjective language toward the more contemporary designs than the traditional ones. Are you sure this is an issue of density – or – simply that you like modest, craftsman homes? Paraphrasing Sally Clark, why should the economics and style from a bygone era dictate and stifle progress?
Also, if you look at several of the examples in the PDF, page 44 for instance, there are six homes across the alley that have very similar proportion and size to the one lamented as having been ‘wedged’ in.
I continue to be disappointed at the NIMBY attitudes in a city that claims progressive virtue.
That, and I feel bad that you have nothing better to do. Look outside. It’s gorgeous and this density you so despise, if disallowed, will soon lead to all of that beautiful nature out there getting gobbled up by cookie cutter developments.
The Seattle Land Use Code is an incremental mess. Each day brings a new surprise. The City Council occasionally undermines the zoning (SoDo) that is the result of historic efforts of many citizens over periods of time with the result that this type of event will doubtless recur because there is no incentive to reform the code.
Add to this the open favoritism at DPD (Planning and Design) towards fee-paying developers and hostility to citizen complaints and you have a perfect nightmare such as this one.
My neighborhood is in the midst of a project with Dan Dufus at this moment. This project is going on in the 3400 block of 39th Ave SW. We, my neighbors and I, have found out some information that might be helpful for those of you who might be currently dealing with issues created by Dufus’ building practices.
We have discovered that Dufus listed himself as the property owner and applied for permits on a property that he does not own. We are hopeful that this may stop the building process underway although we have to see what DPD decides.
We also discovered that the actual property owners do NOT have business licenses in the City of Seattle. Nor does the cement contractor have a business license. We’ll also have to see how both DPD and the Department of Licensing chose to deal with that.
It is important to be aware that developers do need written permission from the neighbor’s IF they are going to be building in such a way as to disturb the property line. They must supply this information as part pf the permitting process. They also must follow noise ordinances. You can call Noise Abatement:
DPD Noise Abatement staff are located on the 22nd floor of Seattle Municipal Tower at 700 Fifth Ave.
6:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., M-F
7:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., Sat.
Noise Abatement Contacts:
They will immediately make a site visit to address noise concerns.
It is very important to make certain that these builders also follow the height limits for the lots they maybe building on. I overheard a conversation the other day in which Dan Dufus was advising the developers on my block about how he moves forward without waiting for “permission”.
I think that these are important issues to keep in mind for everyone dealing with Dufus or other like developers. I am hopeful that by hwlping one another we can create an equitable situation for everyone.
Thank you for starting this movement.
I am late to the “party” so forgive me if this comment is redundant or a bad idea.
How about gathering all of the impacted neighborhoods for a “town hall” meeting, and invite the Mayor, CC, and DPD, Sugimora, to join us. Collectively, making the points that an Emergency halt on all LBA’a and Development” one these sub-standard size plots. Collectively make our position on the new Regs. known. I see no reason to yell at DPD, except to ask them if the Developers have had any contact with any of their staff in drafting the new regs. If so, we need the same access.
Also, invite the Mayoral Candidates. Ask each of the invitees to take a position, and invite them to take a “onelotonehome” pledge.
I’m sure most of you see the corporate stealth attack strategy of Bluepoint. The hit each of our small neighborhoods, and we aren’t organized. This reminds me of the WWII Nazi U-boats attacking Allied ships. It wasn’t until the Allies developed a “convoy with destroyer cover”, that we beat the U-boats. Bluepoint should “hate” this image and metaphor.
I am not late to the “party” as Dick Miller says.
West Seattle Blog has denied me, and how many others, the opportunity to respond to people like Dick Miller.
From West Seattle Blog,
“I am a neighbor, at 3711 – 55th Ave.SW. This issue is larger than NIMBY, and our neighborhood is not a group of snazzy, elitist, wealthy fuddy-duddies who resist change. A few years back one of my neighbors converted his home into a senior care facility. We welcomed this change, and they are good neighbors. My concern is that this proposed development will, in fact, be degrading to our neighborhood. As neighbors, we all suffered a loss at the death of the late owner, Marjorie Sansone, as did her daughters, who had grown up here. I understand that the daughters needed to settle the estate. Then a realtor, Jacob Menache (who is surprisingly a” neighbor”) informed the developer, Dan Duffus, of this opportunity before the property was listed, and a private deal was made. That deal may have been a “steal”, if the daughters had known the true value of the entire property, given the developer’s plan to subdivide. Even worse, the neighborhood expected the home to be sold to a single family whose kids, along with the neighbor kids, could enjoy the large lot. If we had been given the opportunity, I would have made every effort to find a way for the neighborhood to preserve the original home and the open space, purchasing the “lot” if possible to make a small neighborhood park. If the developer succeeds, we don’t have this opportunity to preserve our neighborhood. What a shame. Shame on the developer, Dan Duffus, and his partner Ron Day. Their plans might be legal, which we dispute, but their intent and approach is, in my judgment, deceptive and destructive. What does it mean to be a “neighbor”? Mutual support, kindness, concern, consideration, and friendship, which endure over a lifetime. Duffus, Day and Menache are not “neighbors” to me!
Dick Miller,Past-President, Genesee-Schmitz Neighborhood Council
Comment by Dick Miller — 8:40 pm January 11, 2013.” WSB
West Seattle Blog also published some outrageously misleading elevations for the proposal apparently provided by the “neighbors.”
As I said, people like me are not allowed to respond to inaccuracies and biases on West Seattle Blog.
Regarding the Manning and 55th Ave SW site, it should be recognized that three story homes already exist on this block as do homes with style and character that do not match the rest of the neighborhood. Further, here in Seattle, we have no right to views, sunlight or the air space less than 30-35′ above our neighbor’s yard for construction or 150 + feet for view blocking trees. Unless there are specific neighborhood covenants (another loop-hole?), we have no right to demand others’ homes duplicate the look of ours.
What was done in this case was apparently legal by current codes. Many here seem to mix-up the moratorium passed last fall by the Seattle with the still allowed utilization such as this. This was not a “loop-hole.” If someone did their homework correctly, purchased the property and followed the laws, they should not be receiving such vilification.
Cool houses. I especially like the one on the home page.
hahahahaha, you live in a city, part of city life is being cramped ,which is I suppose why they created the idea of suburbs anyways. some of these side lots are a bit too much, however, some of them still have more space away from the neighbors than I have had in any East coast city in which I have lived from DC to Boston. probably a better cost too. and I have only lived in one row house, so the rest were and are separate dwellings on what you are calling half lots, are 2-3 family homes. built not last week or even last decade but 100+ years ago, you really have no idea how 50 years ago people thought this was buildable lot, if it’s not illegal developers are going to try to make money off of it. and since they are not your lots your neighbors can sell them. Why not just move to the suburbs or the country if you want space and privacy and neighborhood uniformity? #firstworldproblem.
THANK YOU! For bringing this issue to light and all you are doing to stop it. Could you please reopen the petition on Change.org or start a new one? I live in Queen Anne close to the “yes this is really a house” house on your photo list. It. Is. Hideous. And now there is a new one a lot like it just down the block. There was a bungalow style home on the site before – set back from the road with greenery and a typical QA look. Now this new monstrosity is cutting off light to the street, their neighbors and generally ruining the look of the neighborhood. I am so glad to have tastefully, reasonably remodeled older homes on either side of me, but I worry about something like this coming to my block too.
I particularly enjoy your comment.
Was “hideous” a hiss?
Are you the arbiter of “tasteful” in Seattle?
Please can’t we all just get along?
There truly is no accounting for taste.
That “yes this is a house” example was awarded merit by the Seattle Chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 2007.
Some architecture critics have suggested that the members of AIA Seattle lauded this home for its reaction to the rigidity, bias and lack of creativity in one of the prime neighborhoods that many architects call home.
Melissa G’s thoughtless, mean spirited words, NIMBY superiority, rigid conformity, ignorance and lack of tolerance should embarrass even those with legitimate concerns about Seattle infill.
It might be noted that this example should not even be in this site’s hall of infamy, as it was a tear-down house on a full building lot, not a newly exploited way to “cram” another house into granny’s side- yard.
Still without that, Melissa G is happy to dump on her neighbors, telling all how her new neighbors, the owners of this “monstrosity” are stealing her light and “ruining the look of the neighborhood.”
Ouch! I thought this was Seattle, not the guard-gated culdesacs of the suburbs. The matchbox similarity of old toxic house stock on Melissa G’s block is just evidence that her “tasteful” home is just the century old version of the suburban McMansion developments currently destroying our countryside.
Please lets allow individuality, respect and freedom to build and live and enjoy life in the style of home we each choose.
Please lets not claim views and light that are not ours to claim. If we spend time to become informed and do due-diligence before we make outrageous and nasty comments about our new neighbors, Seattle can maintain its reputation as city where people have pride in the city and pride in its diversity.
Almost all of the examples you provide on your website are misleading to the uninformed public. These are not historic tax record loopholes. These are infill buildings on city plat maps that were simply never developed. The comments on the style and size the developer chose to build really weakens your argument.
Do everyone a favor who has found your website and is seeking information and provide at least a reasonable attempt at accuracy in your portrayal of the facts.
This is challenging issue, but I think that the issue is more complicated than both camps will admit, and it isn’t just about lot size or one house per lot.
In my case (Maple Leaf), my neighbor’s one story house was bought, and instead of trying to divide the lot, the new owners and their developer, just tore down the existing house and then built a max height enormous house on it. My view of Mt Rainier and Downtown are gone, as is the noon sun onto my vegetable garden.
Point being, it isn’t just development on small lots, side lots, and back lots, that can ruin the character of the neighborhood and destroy your once beautiful views. This new house is now the largest home on the block, is not in character with the other homes on the block, and it was all within current code (one house per lot) without any need to get into old tax parcels or whatever loopholes people are upset about at the moment.
We need new zoning, because forcing people to own 9,000 square foot lots, encourages them to build the largest house they can on that lot, in order to get the return on investment they want.
I’d like to see a middle ground… allow sensible small lot development, limit structure heights, and enforce setbacks, and enforce a code so that people can’t built a footprint that takes up more than some % of the property, so that trees can coexist.
And if we want more trees (and we all do) — how about finding a way to encourage people to have them, how about $100 off your current property tax bill for every tree on your property with a 4″ or greater trunk diameter?
Of course, some of the people complaining about new big houses blocking their views, will also complain about a tree blocking their view… nothing is perfect.
” My view of Mt Rainier and Downtown are gone, as is the noon sun onto my vegetable garden.” GR Freeman–
Sorry GR, but those views are not yours. You have been “using” the view across your neighbor’s parcel.
If you want “own” a view, you must seek out what the realtors call “un-obstructable views”, and the prices reflect these.
Here in Seattle, “un-obstructable” has come to include more than just the possible massing of a structure but also property and adjacent properties free of trees “growing away” the views…properties next to the water, parks, golf courses, cemeteries, roadways and hillsides.
I dispute the claim about noon sun on your vegetables.
Currently there are limits to structure height 35′ and set-backs (5′ from property line of neighbor) that are enforced, as in your case.
Your example of a 9,000 sq ft lot is poor as that is nearly twice the lot size of most Seattle lots @ 5,000. And it is cheaper/more energy efficient & more marketable to build up rather than spread out as you suggest. A 2,000 sq ft footprint on a 9,000 sq ft lot, has a lot more set-back than 1,000 sq ft house footprint on a 5,000 foot lot.
John N, don’t let the facts get in the way of your agenda. My 9,000 sq ft example is spot on, because those are the facts in my example… that is the size of my neighbors lot. Too small to sub divide under current zoning rules, and so the neighbor was incentivized to built a max height monster structure.
Point being, ugly monster houses that don’t fit the neighborhood’s character can be built on lots of all sizes, not just small lots, side yards, and back yards. And the complaints that most have regarding houses built on side lots and small lots, are about the same issues that everybody — with neighbors — faces in the urban setting.
So fix the real problem, not just the version of the problem that you care most about. More dense zoning is a reality for urban dwellers. It makes better use of transit, reduces road congestion and pollution. So find ways to make the density attractive for everybody, and don’t just force it into areas zoned for apartments. The backyard cottage is a step in the right direction, but not everybody wants to be a landlord or a tenant — allow people to own parcels of that size, and have a modest dwelling on them. Single people, or couples, can live quite happily in a 1000 SF house on a 3.5k SF lot, with a yard — and have zero negative impact on a neighborhood that used to be all SF 5000.
Both the content and the commentary on this website is one big pity-party for white home-owning baby-boomers – The most spoiled generation the world has ever known. The reality is that this city is coming into its own as a real city, with the population density that invariably goes along with economic growth. Don’t like it? Want urban economic growth without density? You can go to a place like Phoenix, where nimbyist homeowners got their way – a sprawling hellhole.
From the point of view of the collective good, there is not one valid argument to support this website’s premise. As for homeowner’s concerns about property value: Your home value is a function of exclusivity, and the fact that you have a patch of land greater than what you should have gotten for the price. You’re simply not willing to accept the economic reckoning that the new era of affordable housing is heralding in.
I looked through all of the photos – looks like an improvement and city living in every example. Move to the country.
you know, i just happened on this topic and it has been disturbing me… the more I think of this topic, I really feel people should be ashamed of compiling this data complete with addresses… maybe a site of people’s home addresses should be compiled that have “poor taste” in paint color.. or whatever happens to offend someone’s personal belief of what “fits in the neighborhood character”. In my opinion, this site data is really an invasion of privacy and a direct attack on people’s personal freedom to leverage their personal property in legal ways. I wonder if the people who compiled this data would be comfortable posting their home addresses? maybe you should.
We are facing similar issues in Marin County. I bristle at some of the posts like Liz T’s.. Essentially the planners and politicians sacrificed one neighbor to allow another neighbor to profit. It is the opposite of good planning policy. I live in a 60 year old neighborhood that has been declared “sprawl” by the Smart Growth set and they plan to upzone from existing 4 units per acre to 30-50 units per acre (called a Priority Development Area). It is a complete exploitation of our neighborhood. Thanks for producing such a great website.
#14 – Dianna M – what are you complaining about? The developer who bought your house paid you what the paid for because they were able to fit 2 homes on the lot. Would you be happier if you got substantially less for your home?
And to all of you people, why are you complaining when a new home that is worth more than the value of your current home enters your neighborhood.
These new contemporary homes are very well-built with high quality finishes.
Having a new home on your street will bring the value of the neighborhood up.. not down!
This is NIMBYism at its finest. I’m a resident of Ravenna and have a couple of these houses in the neighborhood. We live in close-in neighborhoods where we should welcome additional density. These aren’t cheaply made townhouses that sprouted up in many neighborhoods in the mid-2000’s; these are nicely constructed, modern homes. They add value to a neighborhood while also offering a thoughtful way to increase density close in to downtown. As a region, we should be supportive of increasing density near the urban core–it’s better for the environment and for our tax base (less road infrastructure to build/maintain).
To those complaining about the style of these homes: Do you really think that your neighborhood should remain frozen in time architecturally speaking? Perhaps you should live somewhere with a strong HOA where any building plans must be approved and fit a very specific style? Part of why I like living in Seattle is there are neighborhoods with strong architectural diversity. These homes represent a bold addition to our neighborhoods–and honestly, given the sale prices of the modern homes built in my neighborhood? I welcome the increase in property value.
Smart increase in density; quality built homes; architectural diversity; increase in property value for surrounding properties.
Sorry, I don’t understand why this is such an issue.
Increased density is the only alternative to sprawl.
Every neighborhood within the King County growth boundary needs to accept its share of new development in order to prevent freeways and subdivisions creeping further into the countryside.
Density also adds life to a neighborhood. Density is the reason neighborhoods like Capitol Hill and Queen Anne have better shops, bars and restaurants than neighborhoods like Blue Ridge or Magnolia.
Many of the comments on this page are absurdly shrill.
As JJB mentions above, you should move to a suburban subdivision with an HOA if you are this up in arms over these quite reasonable developments.
Where then do you all propose new homes be built??? GMA says not in the suburbs……now you say not in the city…Where???? I suspect anywhere but near you…. NIMBY comes to the top of my mind. NIMBY
Thumbs up to JJB and Paul 🙂
Wonderful this group exists. We will JOIN. Long time Seattlites, we have seen our neighborhood DESTROYED by greedy developers, and lazy city planners. No one in city administration seems to care about QUALITY OF LIFE in an existing residential neighborhoods. And the CITY seems to be an arm of developers. We moved from Green Lake, where we lived for 20 years because of the significant increase in housing density. We moved (20 years ago) to a quiet little tree lined street in West Seattle. There are now “new homes” looming over ours/ and our neighbors. Development at the end of our street out of control; (10,000 square foot house! and a natural ravine FILLED IN to build a private swimming pool). WHO in The City of Seattle is looking out for those of us who LIVE here, WORK HERE, and pay oodles of taxes to City of Seattle?
We VOTE, we DONATE. we CARE…WE ARE WHAT HAS MADE SEATTLE A LOVELY CITY TO LIVE IN. Sad to see it’s demise through offical laxness and private greed.
So many of our neighbors now saying…”where do we move to, now?” :-(( That is SAD comentary.
developer is just a greedy wanker, alright?
It’s NOT ’bout building green, it’s NOT ’bout infill, it’s NOT ’bout density, it’s NOT ’bout affordable……. by a long shot.
developer is just a greedy, money grubbing bastard OK?……….
Has anyone looked at the property tax issues related to these developments? Many of the developers don’t pay the property taxes for years while working their lotline changes, building permits, etc. thru the city. DO they ever pay them??? Check these tax account numbers: 156810038505, 186240052503 just two of many for this developer. (Tax search Website http://payments.kingcounty.gov/metrokc.ecommerce.propertytaxweb/PropertySearch.aspx
It’s no a surprise that the developers and architects that jumped on this site are so pro anything that makes them a quick buck. For those who argue “infill” vs “sprawl” — to what end? When is Seattle full? What exactly are we building to and when does the sprawl start — after every inch of open space is gone. I find it odd that DPD believes they work for the developers and not the general population. If that is not true — let’s have a simple vote on whether we should allow “skinny” houses in each neighborhood. Hmmm – I’m sure they would gerrymander that like the vote was for the big dig tunnel.
A lot of negativity on this website. I looked through the pictures and the side yard houses appear to be well-built, quality houses that are being responsibly maintained by their owners. Some of them have very unique designs that add variety to the neighborhood. Why don’t you folks try to be more welcoming to your new neighbors and be thankful for what you have: a roof over your heads in a beautiful city. You are making a big deal over nothing. There are people out there in the world with REAL problems like gang violence, diseases, civil war, and personal tragedies that are much more significant than your property values or whatever.
You guys are pushing for legislation that is going to negatively affect thousands of lot owners in Seattle, all for a few houses that look out of character. When the proposed legislation passes there will be a lot of people that later realize their property values have been affected due to the limited potential for building or expansion. We can’t freeze the look and feel of every neighborhood to the past. Change is inevitable, thousands of people are moving to the city. Many would like to start a family in a single family home of which there is very limited supply. Infill is one solution, expanding existing homes is another, and the proposed legislation limits both. I agree with Jeff W’s November 2013 post: there are much bigger problems in the world, let alone this city, to be concerned about.
I happen to really like the new skinny modern houses. Neighborhoods change and to think they won’t is just ignorant. As long as developers are working within the rules/regulations I have no problem with these side and backyard houses. Historical lots act as a financial nest egg for some people and to take that away would be wrong. I find the majority of people who fight these projects (and create bias websites like this) have way too much time on there hands and must be bored. The house on Kensington is a great looking home and they just built one close to 55th and Woodlawn too. We have a great real estate market right now so let’s keep building green and innovating new home designs. I’m all for it.
JOHN NULER came to me several years ago, to ask for 18 inches of my property, for access to a lot, behind my little rental house in West Seattle, on 21st Ave SW. In exchange for this property, we agreed on him building a concrete barrier wall on my side of the driveway leading to his property. It was to replace the chain link fence that was there (so, it would be 4 feet tall)to help block some of the noise from the cars that would be traveling up and down the driveway. He seemed honest and sincere; he brought his wife and young daughter to my home in Port Orchard to discuss his plans,and my husband and I agreed to let him take that 18 inch strip of land, as it was not crucial to our property. My husband said “We should get this all in writing”, but I was totally fine with this plan of him building a wonderful home behind me, increasing the value of my small home HA! That was NOT the case. At first he was very respectful of my tenants, then the heavy equipment moved in. From day one, the vibration from the pile-driving machine cracked an entire section of my concrete patio, which John Nuler denied was caused from his construction. There was garbage left on the construction site EVERY DAY, which attracted rats and mice, that were never a problem before. During construction, my tenants were constantly disturbed by the horrific noise of large machinery, the constant pounding of pilings into the side of the hill, and the trucks driving up and down a very small easement driveway, blocking access on many occasions. They gave me notice that they needed to move, and I had to put the house up for rent at a time when the driveway was a real mess, and the construction site looked like the city dump. Luckily, a woman moved in right away; she explained that she worked long hours as a nurse, and would not be around much, so the day time noise would not be a problem for her. She did call on multiple occasions to say that she had to park on the narrow street in front of the house, due to trucks blocking the easement driveway, and was not a happy camper about that, especially after a long day at work. When John finally got around to constructing that concrete wall on my side of the driveway, that we had discussed AT LENGTH, when the wall was finished, it was not even CLOSE to what we had agreed upon. He built a wall that was not 4 feet in height all the way down the short hill, but in several places would not keep a dog in the yard. I allow pets at my rental, and was very distressed that the wall was SO different from what we had agreed upon. I confronted him. He blew me off, saying he had NEVER agreed to do what we’d agreed on, and THEN, I guess to try and appease me, planted 5 bamboo plants on the property line, to act as a fence. REALLY? What the HELL?! I Bamboo spreads like a weed, and runs it’s roots underground and finds it’s way into sewer lines, etc. My husband pulled the plants up, and put them on his property, at the construction site. He called and screamed at me that I had NO right to remove the invasive plants from MY property line. Again: REALLY?! This man turned into the monster from Hell. He was making the entire neighborhood miserable, and did not give a damn. I finally decided to take him to small claims court, and lo and behold, he sat there and naked-faced LIED to the mediator, and actually was going to file a counter-claim against me for moving the bamboo off of my property. At that point, I gave up. THEN, this tool had the NERVE, a year later, to ask for another five inches of the west side of my property so he could build two MORE homes behind me. Now, this hillside was deemed a “critical area” by the City of Seattle, many years before,. That is WHY I bought the house to begin with; I thought there would always be this lovely, treed greenbelt behind me, allowing for privacy on the small patio. JOHN NULER must have greased the right palms at the City of Seattle DCLU, because when I approached the City a few years before about possible development of that land, I was told those lots were not going to be allowed to be built upon, because it was on an unstable hillside. Well, he got the OK, and the permits to build on those lots, and it’s been at least 2 years since he started the construction on TWO new homes behind my rental house (where I actually planned to move back to when the time came), completely ruining ANY privacy my tenants had. The new homes look directly into the back bedroom and the bathroom. Now, mind you, I am NOT a rich person. I rent out my home, because I can’t afford to live there. I live with, and take care of my elderly mother, but HAD planned to move back into West Seattle after her passing. NOT so, anymore. Most contractors that have built around the neighborhood, did a great job of keeping with the “vibe” of Pidgeon Hill, which has always been a funky, little enclave, with a variety of people making up a really wonderful community. John talks a LOT about “being a good neighbor” in posts I have read on here; I guess that only applies to HIS neighborhood; to HELL with the rest of us. The driveway, which was a marked improvement to what was there before John Nuler built the first house, is now destroyed by all the pile-driving machinery and huge trucks going up and down it. A week ago (April 25th, 2014) I went by to see what was going on, because my tenant called to complain to me about the driveway. It is a MESS. There are large holes in the asphalt, deep trenches sunken down from the weight of these trucks, and loose gravel all over the concrete, which is not only makes it hard to get up the hill, but dangerous going down. This man is what I consider a GREEDY PIG. It’s ALL about HIM, screw everyone else. I am all for progress, and growing the community of Seattle neighborhoods, but NOT at the expense of those of us just trying to get a LITTLE bit ahead in this life. JOHN NULER made his fortune in the film industry in Hollywood, and came back to his native Seattle to turn what were once nice, middle class neighborhoods into Los Angeles. Well, NO THANKS, MR. NULER. You, sir, are a complete ASS, and I really hope, that someday, karma catches up to you. You are a LIAR, A CHEAT, AND A CON MAN. Your morals and ethics are non-existent, and your values appalling. You have not only demolished any hope I had for moving back to my home, someday, but have lowered my property value ten-fold. I hope you are pleased with yourself, because that is the only person pleased by your greedy, self-serving actions.Go the HELL JOHN NULER, because that is where you belong.
Your followers whole premise that these homes are unsitely and offensive seems to be taking a hit. New modern homes in older neighborhoods have be taken the lead in $ per square foot value. Making any neighborhoods where they appear have better property values. Like most americans, slaves to convenience, they naysayers are now touting how great/cool they are.
In a city as popular as ours either density goes up or the area will struggle with urban sprawl. You Choose. Either way stop complaining, get rid of your fossil fuel transportation, stop eating animal products. Lets save the planet and its inhabitants.
Remember, most Seattle neighborhoods probably started out as old growth forests, and Manhattan used to have fields and farmland across the East river owned by a family named “The Bronx’s”. I understand how change may be disturbing, but honestly I think the city should pack people in and let them live……in the city!
Hey, pro-density folks, read the page on this website titled “Don’t believe the lies.” You keep making the same comments, which have no basis in fact. Turn the volume down on the conservative talk show, Put down the beer, and take a minute to read the truth about what small-lot houses are doing to Seattle’s neighborhoods. Stop trying justify this hated form of housing with ridiculous comments about how it’s making the city better and giving people with low incomes a place to live.
Coming at the issue from a slightly different angle, I’m wondering if there is a market for the small, buildable, subdivided lots, like the ones shown in the photos. I’m wondering if someone can subdivide their own lot, and then sell off the smaller, subdivided lot to someone who might be interested in building a house there. I would consider doing that, but I’m worried that there isn’t really a market for that, meaning that potential buyers are only interested in getting it for “free,” as a bonus, as a very nice “value-add” along with their purchase of the existing structure on the current lot. I mean, in theory, some buildable 2000 sq. ft. lot in a good, close-in area of Seattle should be worth at least $200,000 — but is there a small market for those small, buildable backyard lots?
I moved into a small apartment in a old house on 60th street about 9 months ago. The past 4 months have been a nightmare over the course of these 4 months they have destroyed most of the houses on my street and are building multiple town houses on single house lots. The traffic on my street is atrocious since these rich people moving in own more than one car and are always inviting their friends over. I am afraid to go anywhere with my car since there is no where to park. I really have no idea where to go since I found a affordable location in seattle but I really can’t stand the parking issue and the construction 24/7.
I am in the anti-detroit NEW york CITY. But I think the issue of finding great real esatte deals is the same. It’s possible but it’s still difficult. THank you for your e-book since it was really helpful and it WORKS!!
You may already have commented, but what do you think of and done about O’Brien’s new DADU legislation
allowing 2 more houses on a lot plus building an addition to the existing home to be rented out.
Should we require a permeable surface reduction mitigation fee? It overloads our infrastructure and heats up our City to have all these new buildings.
It’s been a few years since the posting of the One Lot One Home blog. Have we seen the improvements in housing densities and diverse ownership as desired, or has Seattle continued on a path of over-sized, overly dense, environmentally irresponsible, and profit-driven (double-your-investment) development?
We’ve seen several indicators that would suggest that Seattle has not understood the ramifications of its zoning code.
First, the City’s October 2016 Council Bill 118683 amended amending policy to remove language regarding “protecting” designated single family areas that are predominantly in single-family residential use. The City HALA recommendation refers to single-family neighborhoods that should be filled with duplexes, triplexes and stacked flats. Although increased density with low-rise and midrise zones is encouraged, the elimination of single-family zones will lead to urban plight to areas outside of Seattle. Residents of single-family homes will seek communities and neighbors that accommodate their preference for a private family setting and a back-yard with trees. A blend of residential densities has done more to sustain diverse and stable communities. As a compromise, allowing backyard cottages and accessory dwelling units (ADU) within single-family lots will support mixed income affordable housing in close proximity to transit and walkable retail amenities. Mixed-income communities are not possible in 1200 to 2000 square foot 3-bedroom homes selling for over $500,000.
Second, although low-rise zone density limits (SMC 23.45.512) have modified the rounding rules in August 2015 to allow only 3 rather than 4 townhouses on a typical 6,000 SF or smaller Seattle lot, they have not reduced the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) and increased the private amenity areas accordingly. As such, developers are continuing to build larger and less-affordable homes taking up the same amount of space with a reduced number of dwellings.
Third, developer applications for rowhouses in order to bypass the limits established for townhouses is abusing zoning intent. Rowhouse classification allow the developer to get around maximum area requirements— where the lowrise density limit used to be 2000-1600 sq ft per unit, the current LR1 zone has rowhouses at “no limit”. Moreover, the code states “Rowhouses are attached side by side along common walls with each rowhouse directly facing the street with NO OTHER PRINCIPAL HOUSING UNITS BEHIND THE ROWHOUSES.” Yet, developers are subdividing lots in half, building rowhouses along street frontage, and building townhouses on the rear parcel.
Many residents are concerned on multiple levels— beyond the preservation of what we have — about the over-density within residential communities. They sometimes do not have the tools to react to their concerns. The city’s residents, planners, architects, and real estate community needs to unite to defend a sustainable Seattle: one with diverse housing options, affordably-sized, while preserving our green canopy and environmental critical areas. Do let me know of any opportunity for the community to address the many land-use issues with the blinded or overwhelmed City Council. I’ll look for any petition you send my way at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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